What do you think of the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act?

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) have announced they will introduce the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act at the start of the new Congress to significantly reduce prescription drug prices for Americans.

This bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make sure that Americans don’t pay more for prescription drugs than the median price in five major countries: Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan.

If pharmaceutical manufacturers refuse to lower drug prices below that level, the federal government would approve cheaper generic versions of those drugs, regardless of any patents or market exclusivities in place.

According to the sponsors if this legislation were to become law, the median price of brand name prescription drugs could go down by more than 40 percent, and savings for certain brand name prescription drugs could be even greater.

Sounds like a starting point to put pressure on drug companies, but it is not without consequences?

We are placing our drug prices in the hands of foreign governments, for better or worse.

The 20 year patent protection timeframe is intended to allow companies recover their investment and more before there are competing generics. Can we have that protection along with the threat of early generics and lower prices?

The median price of drugs is not the problem, most drugs are affordable, it’s the outliers that are mostly the problem, especially specialty drugs. Take a look at the ten most expensive drugs in the US HERE

If indeed there is a 40% drop in prices, and hence in pharmaceutical company revenue, are their consequences for R&D to be considered? Keep in mind that the ability for other countries to limit what they pay, in part, is because the US market picks up some of the slack. What happens when that goes away?


  1. Pharmaceutical companies compete in the open market for capital and labor as other companies do. Whether it’s software, food, airplanes, clothing, housing etc., the open market has provided wealth and abundance for the economy. When the government steps in and regulates the price of anything, the net result is usually negative.

    The next break through drug for cancer, Alzheimers, diabetes, Parkinson’s etc., will be done by a company that takes a multi-million dollar risk with the expectation that the result will be successful – meaning profitable. If the government steps in to regulate half the equation, there will be fewer companies willing to take the risks necessary to provide newer drugs.


  2. I like the concept of the proposal. The US pays 6 times more for insulin than the UK. Insulin is old and not a speciality drug. I would like to know which of our current policies are the ones that are causing our high prices. Or maybe the other countries are subsidizing the insulin.

    I am fearful that there will be unintended consequences for all countries. Also, how long before Big Pharm changes the rules or finds the loopholes, find a way to game the system, and still find a way to over charge?

    But I do like the concept of the proposal and would like to hear more but I do not trust our government to make any logical laws or rules that will work.


    1. I have no doubt to some extent Americans are being taken advantage of, but think of this as squeezing a balloon, squeeze too much and it pops out in another direction. That’s how other countries can out in so much pressure. But there must be consequences to simply saying all prices come down 40%. The question is, what are they we don’t know about now.


  3. I think that something does need to happen. It isn’t fair that Americans bear the burden for R&D. If that is REALLY the reason prices for drugs are higher here then the prices need to increase in all of the other countries so they pay their share for R&D and our prices decline to the point where we are paying only our share for R&D.


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